Toronto DemoCamp 11

On Monday we had the latest iteration of DemoCamp (again at the MaRS facilities) and the last of the year. Turnout is still high, with a healthy dose of newcomers, and although there were quite nice demos, some people seemed to have been left unsatisfied. Part of the dissatisfaction, I think, should actually be blamed on the projector, which refused to play nice all along and set back every demo two or three minutes (the delays add up quite a bit, breaking the flow). But the dissatisfaction with the demos themselves was unfair:

AutoSSL, which simplifies the task of securing the communication of devices that use web servers, is a good product, and I guess it’ll be successful relatively soon. The demo itself had some technical problems (Joey de Villa said they were attacked by Phil The Dark Prince of Demos, or something like that), but the presenters recovered admirably. People protested their use of Powerpoint-like props, which are banned from DemoCamps. As Greg writes, it’s a rule that needs revisiting, particularly for products with little/no interfaces.

Selenium: Andrew Reynolds presented Selenium, a great, free, and flexible testing framework, for the benefit of everyone doing web development. If people follow his advice they’ll have an order-of-magnitude efficiency savings in their QA activities. Yet, despite the good and much needed advice, some members of the audience were somehow bothered that Andrew presented something not built by himself.

My Studio Assistant is a website builder for artists and artisans. This one I truly liked: Arnold Wytenburg took extra care to ensure a friendly, safe, even reassuring (but not patronizing) interface for people that may be downright computer illiterate, or computer hostile. To me this counts as a greater success than building yet another social computing website in Rails. He’s not done yet -he’s looking for a team to help build this with a more solid technical foundation. But I don’t think many people understood the real human-related challenges of this product -focusing instead, for example, on why didn’t he use Drupal to build it.

Firestoker was announced and postponed so many times that I had higher expectations for it. It’s a nice product -a knowledge and news sharing platform for large groups-, but as was pointed out, it’s hardly original (and it has that awfully arrogant Enterprise 2.0 label attached). The challenge here, again, was not technical, but social -how to get a corporation to adopt and use something like this-, which they seem to have figured out, but it makes for an awkward demo in a room full of techies.

And finally, the Design Bibliography is a wiki for graduate students to share notes on their paper and book readings. This is the demo everyone but me seemed to like: I’m suspicios about its real chances. I think it may not fly for the same reason My Studio Assistant will –I don’t think the Design Bibliography understands its users very well. Mark Kuznicki points out that outside of Computer Science “petty jealousies and competitiveness would interfere with the openness that Sunir envisions”. It’s true, but I can testify it happens within Computer Science as well, and not just because of competitiveness: I’d be willing to share my reading list (and there are already services offering this), but the thought of sharing my frank views on the papers I read makes me queasy.

No DemoCamp in December – back in January with more!

About Jorge Aranda

I'm currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the SEGAL and CHISEL labs in the Department of Computer Science of the University of Victoria.
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2 Responses to Toronto DemoCamp 11

  1. SunirShah says:

    The first thing people say to me is that they want to keep their reviews private. Currently, as I mentioned at the end of my demo, my plans going forward are to allow people to create private versions of the bibliography, but they would have to pay for the privilege. I’m currently testing out spikes of that concept with a handful of people. We’ll see how my attempt goes.

    Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

  2. Jorge says:

    Yes, I should’ve mentioned you pointed out at DemoCamp the private notes option –Design Bibliography becomes much more attractive that way. How much a grad student would be willing to pay is difficult to determine, though –remember we’re dirt-cheap poor 😉

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